The psalms offer a complicated mixture of emotions. They express longing, lament, love, anger, zeal, enthusiasm, contentment, contempt, and hope, often in adjacent verses. Cries of abandonment are coupled with expressions of trust. Angry calls for God to wreak vengeance upon one’s enemies shift to declarations of confident hope in God’s care. Although the psalms include emotions that are volatile – even disturbing – these emotions are named within the context of prayer. Even in situations where it is harmful or inappropriate to “vent” emotionally toward others, God can “take it.” God is not harmed by our emotions; God can absorb them all in prayer.
The language of the book of Psalms offers tools for recognizing our emotions, accepting them, and channeling their expression. Accurately identifying our emotions and paying attention to what gives rise to them can prevent us from acting in ways we might later regret. By becoming more aware of what triggers my own strong feelings and reactions, I can respond more thoughtfully in stressful situations.
This message is excerpted from “God can take it” by Julie A. Kanarr in the September 2019 Gather magazine. Today we commemorate Peter Claver, priest, missionary to Colombia, 1654.
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